The Beloved Infidel

The last time my father and I argued politics
he told me I was lost.
You’ll never learn, he said, pointing his cane at my chest,
then hobbled off to his room.

Now he rarely leaves it, nodding out in his chair,
cane at his feet, talk radio softly droning
endless litanies against the world,
never any music,
the walls of shelves a citadel
of plastic sports figurines
like small colorful household gods,
and among them me, the beloved infidel
at sixteen clad in the maroon
and gold of a champion.

You need money? he asks, suddenly
wakened when I kiss him goodbye.
He does not wait for my refusal.
I love you, he mumbles, cold rough fingers
fondling my hand before drifting off.
Above us the figurines revel,
his hero Willie Mays still making that famous catch,
hands raised forever toward heaven.
I set his cane where he can reach,
then leave him before the dreams
return that make him whimper in his sleep.

– Eugene A. Melino

Image of author at 16, first string center for the Pelham Spartans, Bronx Umpire Association league champions three years in a row, 1973, 1974 and 1975.

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